The ultranationalist Naftali Bennett has become the first head of the Government of Israel to travel to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after the normalization of relations agreed between the two countries in 2020. Bennett met this Monday with the de facto Emirati ruler, the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, who has received him at his private residence in Abu Dhabi, in a meeting that the Israeli Government has defined in a statement as “historic.” The Israeli prime minister arrived in the Emirati capital on Sunday night, where he was received with honors by Foreign Minister Abdullah Bin Zayed. This visit will officially focus on strengthening economic and diplomatic ties, but will inevitably be framed in the strategic alliance against Iran, the common enemy.
Israel and the UAE share interests in the face of the Iranian threat, but maintain different tactics. As the Israeli government resorts to bellicose rhetoric amid negotiations to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, suspended by the United States since 2018, Emirati leaders encourage economic cooperation on both sides of the Gulf and send messengers to Tehran. The national security adviser, Tahnun Bin Zayed al Nayan, traveled last week to the Iranian capital, where he was received by President Ebrahim Raisí.
Before establishing formal diplomatic relations, Israel had concluded contracts for the sale of technology and weapons with the Emirates for two decades. The Hebrew Diary Israel Hayom said on Sunday that, given the recent Emirati economic and diplomatic rapprochement with Iran, the Bennett government has halted the sale for billions of dollars of missile defense systems, such as Iron Dome (short range) and David’s Honda (medium range). scope).
“We are going to strengthen our relationship in all fields. In just one year we have seen the extraordinary potential of our ties ”, ddeclared upon arrival in Abu Dhabi the Israeli prime minister, who is trying to improve his domestic political image with a diplomatic visit announced without prior notice on the same Sunday. His Foreign Minister and key government ally, Yair Lapid, already traveled to the Emirates six months ago to inaugurate the Israeli Embassy in the first official bilateral high-level visit.
After removing conservative Benjamin Netanyahu from power, Bennett and Lapid have now reaped the fruits of the understanding between the former prime minister and then-US president Donald Trump in the so-called Abraham Accords, which also expanded the normalization of relations to Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco. Netanyahu tried several times without success to be the first Israeli leader to travel to the UAE, but the restrictions of the pandemic or electoral appointments ended up preventing him.
The Abraham Accords have sidelined the old Palestinian conflict as a presumably insurmountable obstacle in the face of direct relations with Israel from several Arab countries that already had underground contacts. For the Emirates, the Iranian threat is a much more pressing matter than the two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians. After a period marked by the fiascos in military adventures in Yemen or Libya, in Abu Dhabi and Dubai it seems now to bet on economic stability and the recovery of tourism and real estate businesses after the end of the pandemic. “It is time to de-escalate the tension, not unleash it,” says analyst Abdulhalek Abudulá, quoted by Reuters.
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Israel, however, is putting pressure on the United States so that a possible new nuclear agreement with Iran will impose stricter restrictions on its atomic program, as well as that of long-range missiles and its campaign to support the Shiite militias deployed in the Middle East. Emirates apparently shares these goals, but defends their own interests above all else. The sale of F-35 stealth fighters, next-generation drones and missiles – one of the compelling reasons Trump used to attract Emiratis to the Abraham Accords – is now semi-frozen by the Administration of Democratic President Joe Biden.
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